Geneva Overholser: Transparency Trumps Tradition

On Saturday I attended an event held by the Northern CA chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. I was covering the keynote panel, “New Money, New Media, New Hope,” live via my amylive Twitter account. Fellow journo and Twitter user Saleem Khan submitted a couple of questions for me to ask the panel. However, the panel ended before I got a chance to pose them.

Fortunately afterward I caught up with one of the panelists, Geneva Overholser, who’s about to take the helm at USC’s Annenberg School of Journalism. She was kind enough to offer some thoughtful answers to Khan. Here’s what she had to say.

(Note: My apologies for the different audio levels between the intro and the interview. I recorded on two different devices and edited in iMovie HD, which I don’t yet know very well, so it’s a little clunky. I’m still learning.)

Here’s more info about who was on this panel…

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Toxic Journo Culture Oozes Across Blogosphere

E-Media Tidbits on Poynter.org
My Tidbits post yesterday seemed to resonate with a lot of journalists. Check out the comments .

My E-Media Tidbits post yesterday, Journalism: A Toxic Culture? (Or: Why Aren’t We Having More Fun?) (cross-posted to Contentious.com) has gotten many comments and also picked up wider traction. Here are the various people who’ve added substantive comments of their own to this public conversation. Check them out!

  1. Raising hell and having fun , by Charlotte Anne Lucas (A breakfast conversation I had with Charlotte Anne last weekend in Las Vegas actually gave me the motivation to write that article. Thanks!)
  2. Curiosity and journalism , by James McPherson
  3. The only journalism that counts is by mainstream news , by Mike Gregory
  4. Giv mig journalistik med Bøvl og Begejstring , by Kim Elrose
  5. Carpe diem, baby! by Sanjay Bhatt
  6. Journalists, Keep the Change , by Craig Stoltz
  7. The Capital Times Moves From Print to Online , by Kim Pearson
  8. It’s not whining if we have a good reason , on Smays.com
  9. Learning to love change , by Charlie Beckett

I’ll add more later as I find them. Glad my piece was useful to so many folks!

Journalism: A Toxic Culture? (Or: Why Aren’t We Having More Fun?)

Despair, Inc.
Remind you of any journalists you know?…

(NOTE: I originally posted this article on Poynter’s E-Media Tidbits. But I thought Contentious readers might be interested in it, too.)

Most of what I do is help journalists and news orgs wrap their brains around the Internet. Generally I enjoy that work. Lately, though, I’ve been getting quite aggravated at the close-minded and helpless attitudes I’m *still* encountering from too many journalists about how the media landscape is changing. Those attitudes are revealed by statements, decisions, actions, and inaction which belie assumptions such as:

  • The only journalism that counts is that done by mainstream news orgs, especially in print or broadcast form. Alternative, independent, online, collaborative, community, and other approaches to news are assumed to be inferior or even dangerous.
  • Priesthood syndrome: Traditional journalists are the sole source of news that can and should be trusted — which gives them a privileged and sacred role that society is ethically obligated to support.
  • Journalists and journalism cannot survive without traditional news orgs, which offer the only reliable, ethical, and credible support for a journalistic career.
  • Real journalists *only* do journalism. They don’t dirty their hands or distract themselves with business and business models, learning new tools, building community, finding new approaches to defining and covering news, etc. As Louisville Courier-Journal staffer Mark Schaver said just this morning on Twitter, “[Now] is not a good time [for journalists] if you don’t want your journalism values infected with marketing values.”
  • Journalistic status and authority demands aloofness. This leads to myriad problems such as believing you’re smarter than most people in your community; refusing to “compromise” yourself professionally by engaging in frank public conversation with your community; and using objectivity as an excuse to be uncaring, cynical, or disdainful.
  • Good journalism doesn’t change much. So if it is changing significantly, it must be dying. Which in turn means the world is in big trouble, and probably deserves what it will get.

There’s a common problem with all these assumptions: They directly cut off options from consideration. This severely limits the ability of journalists and journalism to adapt and thrive…

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Overhauling J-School Completely

Sscornelius, via Flickr (CC license)
Maybe what journalism education really needs is to start over from a new foundation.

Well, there’s been a ton of great discussion lately on the theme of what kind of education and preparation today’s journalists really need, given the changing landscape of opportunities they’re facing. (Thanks to Mindy McAdams, James Ball, Paul Canning, Andy Dickinson, eGrommet, the Ethical Martini, Innovate This, Monitorando, and José Renato Salatiel for their contributions, to the many commenters on all these posts, and to Elana Centor who started it all. Here are my recent posts on this theme.)

I’ve heard from some journalism educators that the kind of preparation I’ve proposed is far beyond what most existing j-schools could offer. I understand that.

Really, I think what may be needed is to completely re-envision and rebuild j-school with today’s realities and tomorrow’s likelihoods in mind.

Here’s what that might look like…

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Newsrooms hemorrhage more jobs than ever

Further to my earlier point that preparing today’s j-school students (undergrad and grad) mainly to work within mainstream news orgs does them an increasingly grave disservice, Rick Edmonds noted on Poynter.org today:

2,400 Newsroom Jobs Lost: Biggest Dip in 30 Years

WASHINGTON — After years of mildly reassuring numbers tracking the size of newspaper newsroom staffs, the latest American Society of Newspapers Editors’ annual census leads with a bombshell. Fulltime professional news staffs fell by 2,400 last year, a drop of 4.4% to a total of 52,600.

It was an even larger decrease than the 2,000 drop-off in the recession year of 2001. Since the census is completed as of the end of 2007, the tabulation does not include hundreds more buyouts and layoffs already imposed in 2008.

Still think it’s fair to focus almost exclusively on preparing tomorrow’s journalists to work in yesterday’s media, while acting like the business of news isn’t really their business?

Who is Amy Gahran?

Self portrait, atop Bear Peak, Boulder, CO, 2006

Some of you may be wondering who’s behind this weblog. It’s me, Amy Gahran. Here’s a little bit about me.

I’m an info-provocateur and media consultant based in Oakland, California. (I just moved there in 2009 after spending 14 years in Boulder, Colorado.)

Yes, that title is deliberately vague because I do a whole lot of things. I’m a journalist, catalyst, editor, mentor, trainer, speaker, project manager, community manager, coach, and semi-geek. (I don’t code, but I can assemble and work with tech teams, and help evaluate technologies for digital media projects.)

Most of my work involves helping people (including journalists) and organizations (including news and publishing organizations) wrap their brains around digital media, which includes web, mobile, e-mail, and social media. I also do a lot of work involving community media (like OaklandLocal.com), citizen journalism, and the evolution of media and journalism.

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